Peace Like a River

by Laura on June 15, 2012

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way . . .” – Spafford, It is Well with My Soul

I guess I’ve always thought of peace like a stable dock in the middle of a raging ocean during a hurricane. I’ve thought peace, a sense of rightness which anxiety can’t touch, would be the calm in the center of a storm, firm footing in a changing world of circumstance. I’ve imagined peace as a strong stasis–an unmovable rock of faith God grants when hearts are centered on the right things.

But about 2700 years ago a prophet named Isaiah called peace a river {Isaiah 66:12} and then 250 years ago a man named Horatio Spafford penned the same analogy as he wrote the famous hymn, “It is Well With My Soul,” while grieving the death of his four daughters in a shipwreck over the Atlantic.

Neither called peace a strong, inanimate structure of boards. Neither used the imagery of a rock, either.

Both described peace, instead, like a moving, changing, powerful, always-forward, very-alive river.

And this morning I am wondering about that image, thinking about how it contradicts with the one I’ve held before.

I’m wondering what it looks like to embrace a “peace that passes understanding,” one not contingent at all on circumstances or storms or even stable places to put my feet. I’m wondering what it means to live with a peace that’s the raging-river-kind, that always presses forward with power, sweeping up the smaller, irrelevant debris in its wake.

And I’ll be honest, peace-like-a-river feels much scarier than peace-like-a-rock.

It’s wilder and more untamed. It’s future flows to parts unknown, and it finds itself smack-dab in-the-midst-of, not above-it-all.


“Peace like a River” or “Peace Like a Rock” or “Peace like . . . ?” Which image speaks to you most right now? And, what area are you needing peace about this week? Would love to pray for you.

  • Kelley J. Leigh

    That’s a dynamic new way to think about peace. Flowing peace. Mighty peace. Powerful peace. 
    Hmmm. … thanks, Laura.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks friend.  Love from here, L

  • kmom

    “Peace like a River” was one of the songs a quartet was singing in the lobby of the major medical center we were at this past week. Around us were others with various maladies, many in wheelchairs. Shortly after we recieved a “will continue to worsen, no cure, no treatment, I’m very sorry” diagnosis for my dad.
    I have always loved that song, but it makes me weep. Sometimes that peace isn’t tranquil or happy, but it washes over me in the midst of life and I come up sputtering, yet supported, swept along. Not in control. “Sorrows like sea billows roll”, I’m nearly drowned by them. and yet.
    It. is. well.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, wow, new friend. What hard circumstances you are walking in right now. So. Hard.

      I will be praying for peace that swallows everything else up right now for you, your family, and your father.

      Oh, may we both be people who say, over and over and in the worst,

      “It. Is. Well.”

      Lots of love and prayers from here,

  • Tbuttery

    First:  love the word ‘stasis’!
    Second:  what a powerful phrase:  “peace . . .  sweeping up the smaller, irrelevant debris in its wake.”!
    That’s the peace I want and it seems the peace I’ve been given when I’ve really, truly, absolutely had to have some peace.  In those circumstances, not run-of-the-mill ‘would everyone quiet down’ situations, God fills me with His peace while ‘scattering the irrelevant debris’ in HIS wake.  And it is good.
    Needing / wanting peace around this time coming up in a couple of weeks when we will have loads of family here, adding a family member, caring for some hearts . . . new items added to my list today BUT:  already feeling His hand getting rid of some debris.  (Oh, you know I’m using that phrase again!)
    Third:  like kmom, the song makes me weep . . . first because it puts me right back in FUMC Lamesa, TX where all I ever knew were people who loved me and now also since I read the story of the writer.  All good tears.
    Peaceful hugs to you tonight.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Loved your words and stories and experiences, as always, always.

      Peace like a river your way, friend.


  • Marla Taviano

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you, friend.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, I am so so glad.

  • Icklepay

    Well, I suppose it can’t pass understanding if it’s not going somewhere.

    Maybe our understanding is one of those pieces of irrelevant debris sometimes.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, I love this insight . . . perfect.

  • Juwalti

    Hi Laura!  Thank you so much for your blog and writings…and showing your heart and life.   My husband found this blog, and it has been a HUGE encouragement to me.   We are missionaries in Italy (I know, rough life.) and your blog always speaks to me.   I just subscribed myself…usually my husband forwarded it to me. :)   Thank you again…keep on loving Jesus.   ps….I need peace for tomorrow.  I have a needle biopsy on a couple of nodules they found on my thyroid.   I want that peace life a river now..that can only come from Him.   thanks you… big hugs to you and your family.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Wow, thanks for your encouraging words and YES, I will pray for you and for PEACE in the midst of medical stuff– such a hard place to cling to peace in . . .

      Prayers for you guys from here,

  • Sarah Elizabeth Conner

    Thank you so much for this! We are moving to Chiang Mai in a couple of months to work with SIL, so we are in the planning/packing/sorting phase. This is just what I needed to hear, that peace does not necessarily mean stability.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Hate that we will miss each other, Sarah! I bet you’ll love it here–there is such beauty everywhere . . .

      Hang in there in the process- its a brutal one, for sure.

      • Sarah Elizabeth Conner

         Thanks! I’m wishing we were already there so I could snag your house helper before someone else gets her. But since we probably won’t even have a house until late November, I think I’m out of luck. :)  I’ll be homeschooling our 3 little ones for at least the first year, and I have drawn so much inspiration and courage from your blog already. Thanks for opening your heart and being so real about your struggles and successes.

        • lauraparkerblog

          Oh, wow– I’ll be following your journey for sure! You should check out the homeschooling co op here– its a great place to meet some people. :) Email me if you want more info on that! lauraleighparker @ gmail. com . Hang in there!

          thanks for your kind words, too– glad i could offer some encouragement.

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